As the Portland Trail Blazers suffered through a beat down at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, frustrations of the night hit a boiling point when the Moda Center crowd rained boos down on Meyers Leonard after the big man badly missed a shot. After the game, Jusuf Nurkic came to the defense of his frontcourt peer, telling fans to boo the entire team if they’re going to boo at all.
Friday, Mike Richman of The Oregonian/OregonLive got Leonard’s side of the night, and it clearly was not appreciated:
"Now nobody wants to get booed. It would be asinine to say I don't hear it," Leonard said on Friday before adding, "They have the right to do what they want. I think it's pretty bogus."
Damian Lillard followed Nurkic’s suit and spoke up in light of the fans’ pinpointed booing:
"It ain't right to go and boo a guy, especially when he hasn't played much in the game. And then he gets in in the second half and he hasn't played and one of his first shots, he air-balls. He ain't played all game. Whatever the score is right now, it's not directly reflection of what he's done to impact the game. It's unnecessary.”
Leonard admits some of the angst is probably due to his big contract— a four-year, $41 million deal he received in the 2016 offseason—but “that's just the sports world in itself."
The big man isn’t putting his head down and hiding from the critics. A summer of improvement has him feeling his game and primed to go forward this season:
"The fans are the least of my concern," he said. "I'm focused on me. I made 23 out of 25 in my normal three-point shooting drill. I shot well today in practice. I put in a ton of work this summer and I'm going to stay confident and play my game."
Leonard took to Twitter Friday evening to send a message to critics in the form of a quote by former president Theodore Roosevelt:
Leonard will face the Moda Center crowd Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. Given his history with center DeMarcus Cousins, he may see some real run—a perfect opportunity to silence boo birds.